In order to begin choosing what communication outputs to produce, it is necessary to identify and profile the target group(s). Which persons and groups do you want to reach with your message? These target groups will be identified as part of your impact strategy (see Step Two for Creating an Impact Strategy in Module 3,) and should include those persons in a position to influence the types of changes needed, based on results of the IEA.
Some target groups are not “chosen” but defined in the mandate for the assessment. This means that in some countries, environmental assessments or SoE reports are bound by legislation and specifically targeted towards governments.
It is important to keep in mind that target groups are not only defined by their profession or areas of focus, but also by differences in language and culture. This can particularly be an important consideration in countries with several languages. Because of possible delays and extra printing costs due to multiple language requirements, this needs to be considered when planning and budgeting.
Within the target audience list, there may be a number of specific groups, such as politicians, academics, women, business, journalists, youth, the general public and others. This will help you look for points of reference or interests to be addressed.
Review what has been done so far with respect to communicating with these target groups, and what, if any have been the reactions? It can be useful to define the level of involvement each group has with the most important issues, and ask if that involvement is on a personal or official basis. It also is helpful to know their perception of the issues and what their current behavior is with regard to them.
Box 1: Examples of some of the most common target groups
- Governments (environmental agencies, planning and finance departments etc.)
- Researchers and analysts
- Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the general public
- Schools and universities
- Industries and businesses
- Women’s groups
- Indigenous peoples’ groups
When segmenting the list of target audiences, it is also useful to distinguish between end users, who make decisions based on the information (e.g., adopt a law or not, buy or not buy) and “broadcasters” who recycle information to targeted messages and thus multiply its impact (e.g., the mass media, the educational system, many NGOs).
Once the target group(s) has been identified, you can take a closer look at how to tailor the message to reach those audiences. Remember that one size does not fit all; the message must connect to characteristics of the target group, such as previous knowledge, attitude, level of education, lifestyle, culture, interests, and their involvement in the problem and solution. The main message should stay the same, even though it will be shaped to fit different target groups.
Also consider your reach and credibility. Are you able to reach your target group(s)? Will they find your message credible, relevant and legitimate? If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” you should reconsider your message or your audience.
There are many examples of how assessments have tackled the need to reach different audiences through different products. One example is the first National State of the Environment Report of South Africa, published in 1999. Various publication formats, such as a web-based report, a paper overview document (published in several languages), a booklet for schools and a video, were developed to reach different target groups. Since then, several provincial, local and sector-specific reports have been published. The South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism initiated a study to determine whether the 1999 report and related products reached target audiences, if it met the needs of decision-makers and other users, and to determine which of the related products added value to the suite of SoE products. For more information, see http://www.environment.gov.za/soer/reports/impact/Evaluation%20Impact%201999%20NSOER
Table 1: Planning to deliver information to target groups
|Target group or focus group
||What are the needs of the target group
||What is the message
|Govarment representatives of enviormental related sectors (e.g., transport, agriculture)
||To understand the enviromental issue, the impacts, and likages with other issues
||Global warming and its causes
||Extended brochure of
10 pages; indicator
Principles of good practice. Checklist Analyzing Target Groups, http://www.iucn.org/
Environmental reporting Guidelines 2001 – With Focus on Stakeholders, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, www.meti.go.jp/english/information/downloadfiles/cEnv0106e.pdf
Impact II Telling Good Stories, GRID-Arendal Occasional Paper 01 2005, http://www.grida.no/
Guideline documents for the State of the Environment Reporting, http://www.environment.gov.za/
Evaluation of the Impact of the of the 1999 National State of Environment Report, http://www.